Weekend away on the Shannon Blueway

Day 1 on the Shannon Blueway image

Day 1

Day 1 on the Shannon Blueway

Suitably fortified, take yourself up to the Arigna Mining Experience, where your guide will be a former miner who will share his unique insights into what coal mining life was like in the area since its beginning in the 1700s until its closure in 1990.

After lunch, you can spend a lazy afternoon at one with nature at Lough Key Forest and Activity Park. The Local Link bus runs between Boyle and Lough Key or if you are feeling active, hire a bike from Chain Driven in Boyle and cycle to reach this magnificent forest. Once you’re there, choose from one of many ways to travel around the park.

There is an 8km traffic-free woodland cycle path so you can pedal past red squirrels, foxes, hares and maybe even a stoat! Boats and Segways can be hired there too, and children will enjoy the jeep safaris and tractor runs. Make sure to take time to explore some of the 350 hectares of mixed woodland, lake and islands, spotting the wildlife throughout Lough Key. Each trail leads you to a surprising attraction; a bog garden; an observation tower; an ice house; a wishing chair as well as the underground tunnels that beckon you to explore. The tree canopy walk is the “peak” track that will really take your breath away. On this journey as you walk through the trees, you’ll discover how humans have shaped the landscape over thousands of years and get an insight into life in Rockingham Estate back in the 19th and 20th centuries.

If you’ve little ones in tow, make a beeline for the Adventure Play Kingdom.  The Lakeside café is the perfect pit stop, with its mesmerising views over Lough Key and Castle Island. The Miners’ Way & Historical Walking Trail which runs to the park is part of the Beara-Breifne Way. Evening Drumshanbo is also home to one of Ireland’s most popular gins – Gunpowder Gin – which is handcrafted in traditional copper stills in The Shed Distillery by PJ Rigney (Visitor Centre opening early 2020). You also have your pick of places to stay, from B&Bs to hotels as well as camping and caravan parks.

Day 2 on the Shannon Blueway image

Day 2

Day 2 on the Shannon Blueway

​Start the morning with a hearty breakfast at Gleesons Townhouse or Rogue & Co followed by a relaxing walk around Loughnaneane Park just outside the town. Walk over a long-lost lake – known as a turlough (dry lake). The park includes a crannog known locally as the ‘Hill o' Bones’; a wildflower meadow; bird walk; lake feature; and mounds.

And while the day is still young, make your way out of Roscommon along the N60 to the town of Castlerea where you’ll find Clonalis House, an elegant Victorian residence owned by the O’Conor family who are direct descendants of the last High Kings of Ireland. The house is open for guided tours from June through to August, and a range of exclusive accommodation options.

Hailed as the perfect place to escape into the wild, The Suck Valley Way – a section of the historic Beara-Breifne Way – passes through Castlerea. The trail offers the chance to explore the heart of Ireland by walking, angling or cycling in the valley of the River Suck.

Next you can start back on your journey by taking the R361 and cycle the 2 hours 15 mins (42km), or hop back behind the wheel for a forty minute spin to Carrick-on-Shannon.

Carrick-on-Shannon is a vibrant and bustling town with a calendar of festivals happening over the summer. But options to get off the beaten track are never far away in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands and a cruise with Moon River Cruises delivers on panoramic views of the softly undulating horizon that simply cannot be accessed through any other form of transport! Carrick-on-Shannon is also a hub for three, four or seven-day cruise rentals with a great choice of destinations.

Visit The Leitrim Design House, set in the 19th-century courthouse building it gives a platform to talented local designers, makers and artists. They often hold “Meet the Maker” events where you can call in and learn about the inspiration and process involved in the artist’s creations.

Drop in for a quick visit to Costello Chapel – one of Ireland’s smallest churches sandwiched between two shops on one of the town’s main streets. It’s often said to be a “true labour of love” given that Edward Costello built it in memory of his beloved wife in 1879.

Dine in the award-winning Oarsman Pub for a meal made from the best of local produce. Or perhaps The Cottage Restaurant is more your style, located just a few kilometres from Carrick-on-Shannon. Sham, the owner, combines “a subtle blend of Asian influences from his grandmother’s kitchen, to modern Irish and European favourites”. 

Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands is close to all the main cities of Ireland; yet feels far away from it all. Dip your toe into not only the lakes of this region but also the culture, immense historical significance and, most importantly, the spectacular nature on offer.